January: Mantis Moon

The Praying Mantis is a fascinating insect. Its unusual triangular head and huge eyes are remarkable. Its slow, deliberate movement is in stark contrast to the lightning speed with which it pounces on its prey.

The mantids vary greatly in size and appearance, but the one most people in South Africa know is probably the common green mantid, or giant mantid (Sphadromantis gastrica).

They live for about a year and are carnivorous, eating only live things (mostly insects). The mantis is diminutive when compared to the larger carnivores in South Africa, but is more than a match for them when it comes down to stealth and hunting prowess. A mantis the size of a lion would be a terrifying prospect.

The mantis was the central religious figure of the San people. The San, who originally lived all over South Africa, are amongst the oldest cultures in the world. In San tradition, the mantis was a trickster figure, /Kaggen, the one who deludes. Over time, he became the Nguni witch familiar uThikoloshi.

/Kaggen had creative powers as well as a serious propensity for mischief and even malice, which inevitably led him into all sorts of trouble from which he, nevertheless emerges as victor.

In San rock-art the Mantis is, as far as is known, never represented perhaps because he is too elusive to depict.

The widespread belief that the San and Khoi considered the mantis to be a god is erroneous and is the result of total misconception about the belief systems of these groups. For the San sentience was resident in almost everything from the wind to the Moon and the stars.

The second Full Moon in January is the Leopard Moon.

Dates of the Mantis Moon

2021 Jan 28, 21:18
2022 Jan 17, 01:54
2023 Jan 06, 01:12
2024 Jan 25, 19:54
2025 Jan 13, 00:30
2026 Jan 03, 12:06
2027 Jan 22, 14:18
2028 Jan 12, 06:00
2029 Jan 30, 08:00
2030 Jan 19, 17:54
2031 Jan 08, 20:30
2032 Jan 27, 14:54
2033 Jan 15, 15:12
2034 Jan 04, 21:48
2035 Jan 23, 22:18

2036 Jan 13, 13:18
2037 Jan 02, 04:36
2038 Jan 21, 06:00
2039 Jan 10, 13:42
2040 Jan 29, 09:54
2041 Jan 17, 09:12
2042 Jan 06, 11:00
2043 Jan 25, 09:00
2044 Jan 14, 20:54
2045 Jan 03, 12:18
2046 Jan 22, 14:48
2047 Jan 12, 03:24
2048 Jan 01, 08:54
2049 Jan 19, 04:30
2050 Jan 08, 03:42

Further reading

  • Lewis-Williams, J.D. (2015) Myth and Meaning: San-Bushman Folklore in a Global Context. UCT Press / Juta and Company (Pty) Ltd.
  • Picker, M., Griffiths, C. & Weaving, A. (2004) A Field Guide to Insects of South Africa (New Edition). Struik Publishers.
  • Skotnes, P. (2007) Claim To The Country. The Archive of Lucy Lloyd and Wilhelm Bleek. Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd Johannesburg & Cape Town.

Heritage Full Moons in South Africa

MonthFirst Full MoonSecond Full Moon
JanuaryMantis MoonLeopard Moon
FebruaryDassie Moon——
MarchHarvest MoonOchre Moon
AprilDiamond MoonGold Moon
MayFrost MoonFire Moon
JuneSisters MoonHoney Moon
JulyMeerkat MoonProtea Moon
AugustPeace MoonDusty Moon
SeptemberSpring MoonBlue Crane Moon
OctoberWhale MoonElephant Moon
NovemberMilk MoonWool Moon
DecemberSpringbok MoonEland Moon

Protecting South Africa’s astronomical heritage

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